Wednesday 27 June 2007

Wig and gown

I wore a wig and my gown in combat for the first time today. And the bloody tunic shirt with detachable collars, the wing collar and the bands.

Did I look and feel silly? You bet. I looked no sillier than any other barristers in court, of course, but they are at least used to it by now. I borrowed The Master’s wig, but it turns out that the wearer isn’t magically endowed with his charm and eloquence. I did try lifting it from my head and replacing it several times to check. Had to be worth a try.

On The Master’s advice I got changed into wing collar and bands in chambers to avoid panicking about it later. It took me about twenty minutes to work out which collar stud went where and facing which way. This was despite purchasing them last night from Stanley Ley and getting Nigel there to talk me through it.

By this time I was pretty hot and bothered and I could smell my own rising fear.

The reason for the fear? This wasn’t exactly the first time I’ve appeared in front of a judge. As an advocate, I hasten to point out. I should be used to this. However, it was the first time I’d done a contested hearing in the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice wearing full regalia.

I’d received the brief the night before. With some help from a friendly face in chambers I worked out that we were judicially reviewing the wrong decision and had also submitted no evidence to support the application. Well, we’d submitted it, but the evidence we wanted to rely on consisted of confidential family court proceedings and we didn’t have a disclosure order, so no-one was supposed to look at it – including me.

What could possibly go wrong?

In fact, because it was so hopeless, nothing could really go badly wrong. It was an ideal case to be practicing on, with no real pressure involved.

Having been way down the list, we ended up going on first. I had been counting on watching the proper barristers showing me how it worked, particularly at the beginning and end of the hearing when I did my introductions and then made any requests for orders. No such luck.

Being used to tribunal work, I wrote ‘MAY IT PLEASE MY LORDSHIP!’ and ‘’MY LEARNED FRIEND!’ at the top of the page in my notebook to remind myself of the protocols.

It went quite well, considering. We lost, unsurprisingly, but I felt I put up a good fight and the hearing took 40 minutes, so I did give the judge a few things to think about. I think I was really quite good on the law, even if I say so myself, and responded well to the judge’s points but I’ve definitely got work to do on presentation. It didn’t help that after about five minutes I reverted to ‘Sir’ rather than ‘My Lord’ and had to start correcting myself. At the end I was asked whether I had any requests for any orders. I was relieved Treasury Counsel wasn’t pressing for costs, and I thought it was probably a privately funded brief but hadn’t checked. I asked for detailed assessment of legally aided costs. It turned out it was private, but I don’t think this matters.

I was really quite pleased -- although also exhausted -- by the time I got back to chambers.

Then I bumped into the head of the library committee, who told me to get on with the loose leaf filing mountain. She’s emailed my pupilmaster about it.

Back in your box, Pupilblogger!


Anonymous said...


What doesn't kill you makes you

lo-fi librarian said...

My comment is really boring and misses the whole point of the post, but forgive me I'm a sad librarian. I was interested to read that your chambers has a library committee. How does this work, what is their function etc? Do they decide on what's included in the collection and manage the show or just hold the purse strings? Apologies again for being such a nerd, but I'm terribly interested.

By the way, congratulations on your big day! Do you feel closer to the Master now that you've shared a wig?

Android said...

Wow!! That must've been sooo cool!!

But why don't you have your own wig?

Barrister 2 B said...

Well Done.

Anonymous said...

What state was the Master's wig in?!! Was it REALLY itchy and old???.
Court Dress looks rather dashing on tall men, but I must admit that, having been compelled by my BVC provider to wear the whole shebang for a one day mock trial in the Crown Court, I felt like a bit of a plank....!

Anonymous said...

Well done - I will be before a High Court judge later this month for the first time in - oooh God knows - and I am crapping myself - I've forgotten everything. I share your pain - sounds like it went well though - apart from the 'Sir'bit - ouch!

Who was the Judge? Warren?

SM said...

40 mins on a hopeless jr is a good result. It would be interesting to know who the Judge was.

The wig and gown make you look like everyone else - so don't worry. Personally speaking I find them hot and itchy and the sooner they go, the better. Unfortunately, the public seem to like them.

Anonymous said...

I've got a friend who was given a judge's old barrister wig ... really old and grotty. Seems to be a badge of honour - frankly, I'd rather look 'newly minted' than mingle with someone else's sweat and dead skin cells in my first moments of terror :)

Anonymous said...

"May it please Your Lordship," surely? Reason - you're using the vocative.

Pupilblogger said...

Thanks everyone, and I'm sorry for being so useless at replying to comments. Thanks for leaving them - despite appearances to the contrary I do enjoy getting them.

Lo-fi, I don't really know to be honest. Their main function seems to be to make me do the loose leaf filing. We've got loads of unopened books, particularly Halbury's stuff just sitting around, and it was me who opened the 2007 White Book package the other day (I wanted to know how to amend a sealed judicial review claim form! - it was no help, alas). This rather suggested it hadn't been used.

Law Minx, I'm tall, but I'm pretty sure I didn't look dashing. I didn't find the wig particularly itchy, but I could have done without extra layers as I was sweaty enough as it was.


Geeklawyer and Simon, I don't feel I can say, but it was an HHJ. I was worried he wouldn't know about the area of law but he did really know his stuff and was asking all the pertinent questions.


Anonymous, you are entirely correct.


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